My latest Sunday newspaper column:
Our president’s recent executive actions and legislative recommendations about gun violence are brave and overdue. The orders are no more than common sense, though, and there’s no way Congress will pass the laws; besides which they wouldn’t make much difference, anyway. In the US, dangerous and crazy people will always have access to guns, because guns are everywhere.
But there’s another kind of crazy going on; and although I have no more optimism about it than I do about mass murders, I spend a lot of time puzzling over it. What explains it? Is there more of it now than there has been? If so, why? I refer to those who defend gun ownership on the basis of their absolute certainty that the government is this close (holding thumb and forefinger about a millimeter apart) to marching onto their property, taking their weapons, and dragging them off to labor camps. What is it with those people? Did no one look under their beds for them when they were kids?
Yes, the Second Amendment (which, clearly, isn’t going away) was written after a revolution in which armed citizenry came together to fight an unjust government. (It was also a compromise allowing states the means to put down slave rebellions.) But the idea that, today, a bunch of guys in camo gear, bearing no matter how many arms, could hold off the US (or any) military, with its laser-guided bombs, its attack (black?) helicopters, drones, heat-detection devices and who knows what else, seems to me profoundly silly.
Call me naïve. Other than, maybe, the prospect of a President Huckabee and General Boykin rounding up non-Christians (would those “patriots” take up arms against it?) I can‘t imagine the reality in which such a conflict would come to pass, or, importantly, with which our soldiers would cooperate. Not in our democracy, no matter how dysfunctional it’s become, thanks, in no small measure, to the presence in Congress of compromise-averse ideologues and theocrats whose political views reject the most basic tenets of democracy. Ironic, isn’t it: those most fearful of a far-fetched government takeover are electing representatives who, by their anti-democratic actions and repudiation of the sort of bipartisanship and compromise that birthed the US into being, are more of a threat to our freedom than any gun laws could ever be.
Which brings me to my point: Large numbers of people are squirreling guns and ammo, spinning tales of Atheist Muslim Nazi Gay Socialist Kenyan U.N.-led troops rolling into town, tossing out Sharia law like Mardi Gras beads, appearing simultaneously in every burg in the U.S. And while they imagine themselves aping John Wayne and Davey Crockett holding off invaders at Alamo-rent-a-car spots all over the country, clear and present dangers to our democracy are being ignored every day.
Congress just quashed a law requiring a search warrant to read our emails. Indefinite detentions are still occurring, rendering habeas corpus null and void. And if, because of terrorism, you’re O.K. with that, democracy is endangered in more insidious ways, too: states enacting laws designed to suppress legal voting; education – the cornerstone of an informed electorate, which is, in turn, democracy’s most powerful safeguard – is being undermined and underfunded everywhere. Attacks on teaching science, which, not coincidentally, helps people learn how to evaluate bogus claims, are increasing. Not to mention that it also causes us to fall further behind other countries in innovation and research. Threats to our freedom? There they are, even as those who arm themselves against figments are the ones, by their electoral choices, imperiling our existence without a shot being fired.
I’m not much for conspiracy theories, but since they’re out there like potholes lately, consider this one: Those who have the most to gain from government ignoring the needs of its citizens, i.e., the tax-averse wealthy and those corporations that hate regulation, have highjacked right-wing media, to peddle fear about the Second Amendment and other diversions (New Black Panthers! Hitler in the White House!!) keeping credulous people voting against themselves, frightened of that which isn’t, blind to that which is. Thus, the Tea Party, produced and directed by the Koch brothers, kept constantly befuddled and distracted by Fox “news;” while “patriot” groups, curiously easily convinced, buy arms by the bushel, standing watch in the wrong direction.
How’s that for a Doocy of a theory?